Parliamentary candidate news dominates Monday’s newspapers. State-owned flagship daily Al-Ahram tops its front page with news that "the doors of nomination have been closed” for prospective National Democratic Party (NDP) candidates in the parliamentary election scheduled for 28 November. Inside, the paper brings us a comprehensive two-page list of all the candidates chosen to represent the NDP in this election cycle.
Now begins what should be a several-day drama as those NDP loyalists who were passed over by the party have to decide whether they have the resources and the backing to challenge their own party as independent candidates. During the last parliamentary poll in 2005, the NDP faced an embarrassing scenario as dozens of its candidates were defeated by independent campaigns from rejected party members.
The secondary headline seems designed to address those disgruntled runner-ups in the race for party endorsement. NDP Secretary General Safwat al-Sherif, the public face of the party this election cycle, announces, “There was no favoritism in the selection process out of respect for the will of the voters.”
Further down the front page, Al-Ahram brings news of a minor earthquake that rattled Aswan Sunday afternoon. For reasons we don’t quite understand, the article refuses to use the common Arabic word for earthquake–zilzaal. Instead it repeatedly calls the incident a “shaking of the ground.”
The trembler, according to the article, hit 4.6 on the richter scale and lasted 11 seconds. Al-Ahram assures us that neither the Aswan High Dam nor its vital electricity-generating turbines were affected. The most immediate impact seems to have been panicking school children, prompting Aswan Governor Mostafa Sayed to send all students homes for the day.
Privately owned daily Al-Dostour leads off its front page with yet another statement of defiance from the government regarding the steadily building Western pressure to allow international monitoring of the elections. In recent weeks, it has been al-Sherif doing most of the public talking on this subject. But today, Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour speaks out in a lengthy interview. Sorour hits all the recent government talking points. There are veiled shots at the Muslim Brotherhood and the need to keep religion separate from politics for the sake of national unity. But the real message comes in the main headline, as Sorour states that “foreign embassies won’t be able to interfere” in the coming elections.
Independent daily Al-Shorouk brings us an alternative view on the candidate lists with greater emphasis on the opposition parties and groups who will be competing for the 508 seats. The paper announces that the Wafd party will field 194 candidates, the Tagammu Party has 72, and the Nasserist Party will field 47 candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned by law from forming an actual party, will field 134 candidates–all of them running as independent candidates under a unified slogan. What’s still unclear is whether the Brotherhood will be allowed by the government to use the slogan “Islam is the solution”–which helped the Islamist group earn 20 percent of the People’s Assembly in 2005. NDP and government officials have repeatedly stated in recent weeks that the slogan violates rules against religiously based campaigning and won’t be permitted this time around.
Al-Shorouk also brings us news on the health of Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III, who injured his leg in a fall over the weekend. Contrary to the Shorouk report yesterday, apparently Pope Shenouda’s leg is NOT broken. The elderly pontiff has been released from the hospital and most likely won’t seek treatment overseas, the paper reports.
At the bottom of the front page, Al-Shorouk brings us an amusing photo of US First Lady Michelle Obama dancing during a reception to celebrate her and President Barak Obama’s official state visit to India. Michelle Obama is already a tall woman, but the angle of the photo and the fact that she’s dancing with Indian children make her look like she’s towering about two feet over everybody in the room.
And in what could be considered its own weird sign that election season has officially begun. Populist singer and shameless NDP stooge Shaaban Abdel Raheem has weighed in with his latest political song. According to a brief item on Shorouk’s back page, Abdel Raheem’s new song will be called, “We won’t elect ElBaradei.”
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned